“The chemistry just wasn’t there,” you tell your bestie woefully after a disappointing first Tinder date. “It’s so obvi Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello are in love — their stage chemistry is off the charts,” you say to your coworker while discussing celeb romances over lunch. That intangible energy, which you either feel with someone or you don’t, is a widely debated topic in the realm of dating. But does chemistry guarantee a good relationship? Or are those sparks completely irrelevant to your compatibility?
First, let’s clear up what chemistry is because it can be difficult to define. Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, psychotherapist and author of Training Your Love Intuition, describes chemistry as a mix of emotional comfort and sexual excitement.
“This complex reaction can happen quickly or over time,” she tells Elite Daily. “Its roots are deep in your brain’s limbic system, which regulates your unique connections and management of your emotions and memory.”
In other words, when you talk about having chemistry with someone, you’re not just talking about physical attraction (infatuation), or an emotional connection. It’s a little of both, which is why it can be so powerful. Still, Dr. Wish warns that chemistry can be a bit deceptive. Because while it may convince you that you’ve found “The One,” it’s not always a solid indicator that you’re a quality match.
“You can feel chemistry for the wrong person,” she explains. “Your limbic system has created neural links between your feelings, important experiences, and your memories. And few emotional experiences are more powerful and important than those from your childhood in your family or with your caregivers, regardless of whether those experiences are positive or negative. The consequence is that you can feel chemistry for someone who is not good for you because he or she arouses feelings that are strong and familiar to you.”
Woah. Did you catch that? Essentially, you’re hardwired to be attracted to what’s familiar to you, even if it’s not necessarily what’s good for you. So, when you feel like the sparks are flying on a first date, it may only be because your date subconsciously reminds you of someone from your past. Just to be clear (and to avoid creeping you out), that doesn’t mean that your date reminds you of a parent. It’s often more that their demeanor, personality, and behavior makes you feel a certain way that’s familiar. Familiarity breeds comfort, and when you’re comfortable, you’re more likely to fall head over heels.
And just to complicate the issue even further, sexual chemistry can fool you into thinking you have the makings of an amazing relationship on your hands. So, if you enjoy a mind-blowing orgasm with that date, you may be even more likely to believe they’re a good fit for you as a partner.
“Feeling fulfilled sexually can lead you to believe that you couldn’t possibly feel this way if the person were not good for you,” explains Dr. Wish. “The positive feelings that are caused by hormones released during sex can overwhelm your doubts.”
In other words, you’re more likely to overlook someone’s flaws and shortcomings. You know, the kind of stuff that might make you incompatible, after you see firsthand that you have stellar chemistry in bed.
Just to clarify, even though chemistry doesn’t exactly guarantee that you’re a good fit for a long-term relationship, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Someone can be a great partner for you on paper, checking all the boxes of “must-have” qualities, but if the chemistry isn’t there, you may eventually lose interest. Still, while chemistry definitely has its value, Dr. Wish says that there are some other indicators that may be more meaningful.
“Your best evaluation about whether this person is a healthy match is making sure your relationship is a combination of mutual respect, emotional support, joy, ease of being together, shared values, and sexual compatibility,” she explains. “In many ways, a wisely chosen partner can serve as an emotional correction to the emotionally negative aspects from your caregivers. It’s as though your relationship creates an emotional environment where you each undo and redo your and your partner’s pasts.”
If anything, knowing that chemistry doesn’t guarantee a good relationship should give you a little added reassurance that there are other factors at play that are worth considering when evaluating your romantic potential with someone. Besides, chemistry can build over time, so just because the spark isn’t there on the first date doesn’t mean it won’t ignite by the third or fourth. The key, according to Dr. Wish, is to develop a strong emotional awareness of whether or not you can trust that feeling of chemistry. Once you know what works and doesn’t work for you in a relationship, you’ll be able to take a step back and assess whether the chemistry is all you have with someone, or whether there’s a deeper connection that could bloom into a long-term commitment. The bottom line? Chemistry is just a small piece of the pie when it comes to relationship potential, so keep your eyes peeled for other signs that you and your date could be destined for a lasting partnership.